‘Silent leader’ bolsters school’s service clubs
By Andy Gammill
June 2, 2008
The valedictorians may get to give the commencement speeches, but many graduating seniors this year excelled in areas beyond academics: in the arts, service to the community and other ways. The Star will tell the stories of some of those metro-area students in a series of profiles this week.
Over the years, Decatur Central’s Students Against Destructive Decisions club had withered and eventually stopped working.
Until Ian Trusedell got there.
Not only did he and his friends resurrect SADD, which was prominent this year at school discouraging drinking, drug use and violence. Trusedell, 18, also launched the school’s chapter of Net Literacy, a nonprofit that puts computers in the hands of senior citizens and the poor.
Click here for graduation photos from area high schools.
To hear the Decatur Central senior tell it, he didn’t do anything: Everyone else deserves the credit, and he just helped. The adults who worked alongside him say that’s not the case.
“He’s what I call a silent leader,” said Cathy Tooley, an administrator at Decatur Central. “He leads everything but then stands in the back and pushes other people to the front to take the credit.”
Take his election this year as president of the SADD club. Trusedell, his twin sister, Katherine, and a friend propelled the organization forward with their dedication and will, according to the school.
It was Trusedell who came up with the idea to replicate a program where the Grim Reaper walks through school hallways picking “victims” of drunken-driving accidents.
Family members and friends then eulogized the “deceased” classmates just before prom in a display that school staff members said hit home for students.
“He was a huge driving force,” said Kim Glover, the club’s adviser. “He can do anything he wants, anything he puts his mind to. He’s that kind of kid.”
That leadership and compassion also caught the attention of Don Kent, chairman of Net Literacy. Trusedell attended a summer workshop last year where teens learned to create Web sites and then worked with nonprofit groups that needed them.
When the directors of the organizations explained their missions, Trusedell asked probing questions. He showed sincere interest and took copious notes, Kent said.
“It was his leadership skills and personality that differentiated himself not only to me but to his peers,” Kent said. “He believes in volunteering and helping others, and that resonated within him. I could see that resonating with him more strongly than in most 18-year-olds.”
Kent asked Trusedell whether he would like to launch a chapter at Decatur Central and later asked him to join the board of Net Literacy, which also includes U.S. Sens. Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Suellen Reed.
Trusedell became the team leader for a new program, Safe Connects, which aims to teach children and teens to use the Internet safely.
The public-service advertisements Trusedell oversaw will soon begin appearing on local cable networks and government channels across the state.
He sees that message of Internet safety and SADD’s mission to prevent teen drinking and drug use as examples of youth empowerment.
“It all starts with youth,” Trusedell said. “Youth can impact society.”
He also has served on missions with his sister through Valley Mills Christian Church. They spent weekends making sandwiches and bread to take to the homeless. They spent spring breaks on mission trips, including this year to New Orleans, where they helped rebuild a church.
At one point, Trusedell thought the music he loves might be his career. He led the school’s elite jazz combo, which was started by his older brother while Trusedell was still in elementary school. He was selected to play acoustic bass in the Indiana All-Star High School Band.
He could have made a career of music, said Tim Cox, director of bands at Decatur Central.
“He is a very, very good bass player, but also a fine trumpet player,” Cox said. “He’s one of the best I’ve ever had. . . . He could have easily gone to any music school he wanted to and made a significant impact.”
Trusedell said he decided instead that he could better use his gifts in mathematics as a career than he could his music.
He was accepted to Purdue University, but he thought that it wouldn’t guarantee him the chance to immediately do the work he wanted. And he felt a higher calling.
So he enlisted in the Air Force.
He leaves for training and then active duty in the fall.
Call Star reporter Andy Gammill at (317) 444-6494.